Structure of Federal and State Judges in Michigan
In the United States, there are two separate judicial systems, state and federal. State courts handle criminal and civil cases that primarily impact only Michigan residents. In federal court, cases generally involve the United States as a party, cases involving violations of federal law or the Constitution, and bankruptcy cases.
State Courts in Michigan
The state judicial system has five key parts: District Court, Circuit Court, Probate Court, Court of Appeals, and the Michigan Supreme Court. District Court judges preside over civil lawsuits for under $25,000.00, landlord-tenant cases, traffic infractions, small claims, and state law and ordinance misdemeanors (crimes punishable by one year or under), and the initial stages of felony cases (arraignments and preliminary examinations for crimes punishable by more than one year).
In the Circuit Courts, judges handle felony cases, family law (domestic relations, custody, divorce, child support), civil lawsuits with an amount in controversy that exceeds $25,000.00, child protective proceedings, juvenile delinquency, and more. The juvenile division of a circuit court handles, neglect and abuse allegations, and juvenile delinquency. Juvenile delinquency means violations of criminal laws by children under the age of 16.
The Michigan Court of Appeals hears cases where someone is dissatisfied with the ruling of a circuit court judge or a jury. In most cases, the party that loses a legal argument in a Circuit Court can file an appeal to the Michigan Court of Appeals. Three judges preside over these appeals. A decision agreed to by two, or all three judges is called the “majority opinion” and is the ruling of the court.
The highest court in Michigan is called the Michigan Supreme Court. A Michigan Supreme Court judge is referred to as a “justice.” There are seven justices in the Michigan Supreme Court, and the court generally hears cases where a party is dissatisfied with the ruling of the Michigan Court of Appeals. The decision that is agreed upon by the majority of the justices is the ruling of the court.
Federal Courts in Michigan and in the United States
The federal court system has three primary levels. The lowest level is the United States District Court. This court has the initial jurisdiction over the vast majority of lawsuits and criminal matters involving federal law and crimes against the United States. United States District Court judges review petitions, hear motions, hold trials, and issue injunctions.
The United States Court of Appeals is divided up into 12 circuits. These courts are frequently referred to as federal circuit courts. Michigan is in the Sixth Circuit. The circuit courts are appellate courts; they do not handle jury trials. Generally, three judges preside over federal appeals; however, a limited number of cases get heard by all of the judges in the Circuit at one time.
The United States Supreme Court
The Supreme Court of the United States is the highest court in the country and has the final say on any issue relative to federal law. The majority of cases filed in the Supreme Court are appeals, but the Court has original jurisdiction over certain types of cases. There are nine justices on the Supreme Court and they decide cases together. The majority decision is considered the ruling of the court.
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